Work-Life Balance?

I have a work-life balance. I swear. Work is my life. That counts right?

Post by Melissa

Seriously though, this is a big problem for me right now.  I know myself well enough to know that if I keep doing this I will make myself very ill, my body has this funny way of forcing me to slow down when I fail to do it for myself, so I need to learn how to balance the see-saw, or to play on other things at the park.  Well, playing in general would be a good start 😉

I’ve been talking with my good friend Talia about this a lot lately, as it is something she is also struggling with.  We’ve both been working late hours in our offices and taking work home too.  My office has an official 37.5 hour work week, and lately I’ve been averaging a 45 hour week in the office, and an additional 10-15 hours from home.  That’s ridiculous.  (And while I knew it was a lot, when I stopped to think it out to type the numbers it disgusts me.)  I have no life right now.  Seriously, even my dreams are about my work, work events, and my colleagues.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with great friends, and I felt guilty for the fact that I wasn’t working!  I was having an amazing time with phenomenal women, and each time I made the choice to continue spending time with them, I felt a nagging in my gut that I should be going home to do work.  I checked my BlackBerry and was responding to emails – rather than being 100% present for these women. (Though to be fair, we all were checking our phones/emails/social media – but that’s a different issue.)

While I know rationally that my work is of the nature that it will never go away and even if I got everything done every day, there would be new things added to my plate – and I feel compelled to keep up the tunnel vision and slave away at the expense of all else.  I know that by doing this I set the expectation that I will continue to do so – and I don’t want that to be my continued reality! So dear readers, I come to you in need!  What do you do to help establish clear boundaries? Who do you enlist to help you maintain focus on your priorities?  Where do you post reminders and affirmations of your goals and daily tasks?

How do you keep the see-saw even and make sure you have time to play on the other equipment sometimes too?

I need to shift now and learn these lessons, because someday I will have a family (ih”H) and I want to be able to be present for them!

{I think this post makes some sense, but I’m writing it quickly so I can set it to post and then go to bed because for once I didn’t bring work home and I am exhausted! And truly, I think at this point my brain is a pile of mush somewhere on the floor of my office.}

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11 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance?

  1. I feel ya, sister. Finding that balance is probably one of the hardest parts of my life right now, and that’s saying something. I’ve spent the last few nights crying in bed because I just feel like I’m lacking in some department by focusing all of my time in another department of my life.

    What I have found to be continuously helpful, and am starting to put this back in motion after the summer, is to have J (with permission) force me to put my work down and do something with him. Even if it’s just a walk with the dog, or cooking a meal. Also, since my schedule is so hectic, actually scheduling in ahead of time, time for me alone or time for J and I to go out and do something. I find that a schedule like this helps me still get all of my work done and find work-life balance. In addition, I set some pretty strict boundaries with my friends. They understand that I have a life outside of school and friends with my husband, so they respect that. I think setting boundaries and taking the time to (maybe not explicitly) put them in place at a workplace can help.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble…Love!

  2. I’ve always been a workaholic. And it was cute when everyone thought I was just driven and ambitious.

    But it wasn’t cute when it ruined my relationships with boyfriends or friends or family. And it wasn’t when it made me permanently, very ill. Now I have to live with the chronic illness and a constant, needling sense of worthlessness because all I’ve ever known is working crazy hours full-time. I even tried working from home when I first got sick and I did the same thing to myself and became a workaholic, just from home.

    There are reasons, I think beyond the American workaholism problem, that drive certain people to become workaholics and that’s the first step to figuring out why you have this problem. I know would have been different if I had taken a step back and prioritized what was important in my life…and it wasn’t work. Now I have “all the time in the world” but I’m constantly to sick to take part in the things I want to with friends and family.

    It’s not easy but I’ve lived IT so I can tell people that they need to cherish the things they have outside of work because if works’ all that defines you, when you lose it…what do you have?

    The Workaholic Control Freak Learned to Relax: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/969313/jewish/How-a-Workaholic-Control-Freak-Learned-to-Relax.htm

    Though funnily enough, this was during my workaholic from home stage.

    • Thanks Aliza.
      I actually both remember and relate to that article. I am sure I know what is the root of the problem, as it is a similar thread to other known realities of my life and I need to be careful b/c my chronic illnesses don’t like it either! I remember when you first stepped back from writing and tweeting to focus on your health, and how moved I was that someone who was clearly so driven could do that. I know am getting close to knowing how you could *need* to, and is why I’m reaching out now. I don’t want my work to win, I want life to win. I want to be able to be active and engaged and happy, not miserable and in pain at home/work alone.

      • It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Right up there with when I had to leave teaching because my body just couldn’t handle it anymore. Both times, people weren’t supportive because they didn’t understand my health problems but also they didn’t understand someone who didn’t want to be on the same rat race at the same pace with them. We are individuals and we have to know ourselves and our bodies.

        Despite significant health issues, my great-grandmother is 99 years old this year. I expect and hope to live a long time and by then, I’m sure I will get most of what I hope to get done…done. But if I don’t, I feel fulfill by knowing I did the right thing for myself and I stood up for myself against the naysayers and more importantly, SUPER ALIZA. Action figure now available. 🙂

      • In taking a step back, Melissa, I’ve learned a lot about WHY I’m so crazy driven. I use the word crazy because when I first got sick, I ignored every sign until my body completely and totally shut down for years.

        My mother was on welfare all my life. She was mentally ill. I promised I would never be either. I would be self-sufficient. And when I got sick, it was my worst nightmare because I had to give up a lot of my independence and understand the mitzvah of allowing others to help me. My students were integral in helping me survive my last year of teaching while I became sicker and sicker and still no less driven to be SUPER TEACHER.

        My father is also a workaholic. He doesn’t even have a home phone and for as long as I can remember, he has worked 12 hours a day and only once in a while–because of girlfriends or family–been pulled away to enjoy living in the Caribbean all year-round!

        Also, in reaction to my mother’s physical abuse of me and my sisters, I tried to be perfect. I wasn’t competitive with other kids or other students but I became extremely competitive with myself, pushing myself beyond limits my body and even my mind and heart were able to go. I think I also enjoy helping people because I get a love and high from doing it that I didn’t get from my parents who couldn’t be good parents or give me that kinda love. It all gave me a validation I hadn’t gotten elsewhere.

        But I gave so much and so hard that the people around me, the people closest to me who saw what I was doing to my body, asked me to STOP. And still, if you notice, I still felt like I needed the permission of others to get off the merry-go-round. But thank G-d, I did it. Even if it was a little too late.

        We all know people who have lost their families, their lives (heart attack after heart attack) or their minds to workaholism. But few people talk about it because hard work to an unhealthy extreme is praised in American culture. It’s very different in Europe where there’s an understand that resting and rejuvenating is incredibly healthy.

  3. We constantly had this problem last year, and we dealt with it with R when we lived in Chicago too. Some of it is about personality type – R generally has this problem more than I do, but a lot of it is about the kinds of work we’re doing. When you do work that’s meaningful, you want to do your absolute best at it. When you do work in a non-profit, they have the need for you to be as efficient as possible, and they don’t compensate you for the crazy hours that, say, a law firm might. I also think there’s an issue of “I only can’t work on Shabbat, so every other day of the week is totally game, especially Sundays” – the rest of the world gets two day weekends!

    There’s no one-stop, fail-safe solution, but there are a couple of things that have helped us. The first step is realizing you have a problem, which this post is about. The second step is identifying what’s going on. Do you simply have too much to do? As a competent individual, is there no possible way to get the work done by yourself? R had this particular problem at the Hillel in Chicago, and part of the solution was hiring interns and training them to do the really time-consuming tasks that were preventing him from doing the higher-level tasks. Best of all, they were work study, so Hillel only paid 1/4 of the salary. This past year, it involved a lot of conversations with his board chair about priorities. If he wanted x to happen, y would be delayed. Because of x holiday, y project couldn’t happen in the timeframe outlined. Especially if you can talk to your boss about priorities, you can figure out where the breakdown is happening and work to improve it.

    Good luck! Keep us posted 🙂

    • Thanks Jess. I think a lot of what you guys experienced is what I’m facing, Unfortunately, they won’t give me any one else to help. (Though I have a meeting tomorrow where I’m hoping to be able to outline it all better and hoping it may help.)

    • So true! My husband doesn’t have this problem. He understands when he needs a break. My breaks usually involve doing…a different KIND of work. Oh, so I can’t write that article and I need a break…let’s go do 10 loads of laundry. We’re very different personality types as well and we’ve studied the book “Please Understand Me” and my personality type is definitely more prone to workaholism and people-pleasing.

  4. Though we’re talking in general, I’ve noticed that this problem is common to both rabbis and their wives. It almost comes with the job. My rabbi almost never takes a day off and his wife works equally as hard. Rabbis are expected to be on-call. Some rebbetzins have similar expectations from their communities and themselves. Especially because, as Jessica says, it IS meaningful work.

    Staying up late to answer an email from a fellow Jew who is going through a difficult conversion or having issues with acceptance in their community is very meaningful to me. But when I sacrifice sleep and my own needs, then I’m in trouble. It’s hard not to be a martyr when you’re a teacher, which I was, because as Jessica notes you don’t get paid for all the hours you do once you “leave the office” but also because again, you know you’re doing something so unbelievably important. I feel the same way about being a Rebbetzin or as I call myself: A Rebbetzin-in-training wheels. 🙂

  5. This was a really interesting post for me. During the school year I have a pretty good system worked out where I work while my kids are at school. Over the summer the boundaries are so blurred its easy to feel guilty – no matter what I’m accomplishing, I’m ignoring something/someone. Between being a rebbetzin, working in our non profit, being a mom, etc, boundaries are vital. Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

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